Question: Why promote a negative characteristic?
Answer: Who defines what is negative?
As we begin the holiday season, I wanted to share a way that my readers can take a negative and “flip” it to a positive. Over the last year and half, we have definitely seen too much negative. One way to accomplish this is to look at words and how they are used. Specifically, many words or phrases can be characterized as negative; yet, when applied differently they can take on a more positive role. To illustrate, younger generations are masters of changing the meanings of words. For example, in the 80’s when I was younger, (Yes, I was once young and hip 😊) “Wicked” was not just defined as evil, vicious, & disgusting, it was “flipped” to mean even better than good or awesome. . . It was “wicked awesome”! Of course, New Englanders still love that word and pretty much put it at the beginning of every sentence. In addition, to bring an example for those who are even younger, the word, “Mad” does not mean one is angry, it is used like “Wicked” to emphasize awesomeness!
Which brings me to this blog’s Question/Answer-with-a-question post. Recently, while reading a devotional from my YouVersion Bible App, I read the words “Navel-gazing”. To be honest, I did not know what it meant; however, I could tell by the content that it was not being used to describe a positive characteristic. Thus, I searched my browser, “DuckDuckGo” and saw that it meant: “self-indulgent or excessive contemplation of oneself or a single issue, at the expense of a wider view”. Well, that definitely is not an encouraging phrase!
Although I am no longer considered young, as a writer, I do like to “play” with words. For me, I view the “navel” as proof of life. To explain, the bellybutton is the result of a child’s connection to his mother in the womb. It is the lifeline of blood, nutrients, and oxygen. Therefore, navel-gazing can be “flipped” to mean “a focus of life, creation, bond, and love”. So, let’s use this in a sentence with its new meaning: "Thanksgiving is the perfect day to navel-gaze as you celebrate with family and friends".
As we pass through Thanksgiving and see Christmas on the horizon, choose to “reverse” the negative that is bombarding all aspects of the media (social & news): Be a NEW navel-gazer and show the world around you Who defines your viewpoint. By keeping our focus on Christ’s sacrificial love, we can redefine our attitudes and come together to heal our relationships, community, and nation-Amen!
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life”. (John 3:16).
for KING & COUNTRY - TOGETHER (feat. Kirk Franklin & Tori Kelly) [Official Music Video] - YouTube
Question: How does one get Christ Confidence?
Response: What or Who are you relying on?
Recently, while studying the book of Matthew, I came across the story of Peter walking on water (Mat.14:24-31). This story is often used to illustrate Peter’s bold faith as he stepped out of the boat and walked on water. However, Peter lost focus of Christ and began to sink. Peter cried out, “Lord save me!” (Mat. 14:30). Even though scripture does not say it, I think Peter was questioning in his mind, “What the heck just happened? Why did I sink?” Scripture only shows Christ’s response, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Jesus asked Peter a question so he would think about why his faith faltered. One reason is that the storm with all its noise, wind, and waves distracted Peter; however, I think Peter’s faith wavered before he even got out of the boat.
Let me explain, Peter and the other disciples saw Jesus walking towards them on water and thought Jesus was a ghost, and they trembled in fear (v26). Jesus’ response to them: “Take courage, it is I! Do not be afraid” (v 27). Now, listen to Peter’s reaction in verse 28, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” I highlighted, “if it is You”- this is where Peter doubted! Jesus had just told them it was Him.
Just like Peter, I have doubted (I guess Thomas should not be the only one with that nickname 😉). I know God has spoken to me-maybe, not audibly, but through scripture, music, sermons, and Holy Spirit whispers to my spirit. There have been many times when I have asked, “If it is You, show me this is what You want me to do or say.” It was only recently that I heard Jesus answer my question with a question, “Why do you doubt”? He does not want me to sink-thus, my trust in Him has to come before I step out of the boat. Leaving the boat is an action of a faith that is already grounded in knowing my Savior.
Finally, Christ Confidence is gained when you spend time with Him. Ask yourself, “What or Who am I relying on: self-knowledge/ability, education, job/money/possessions, news, or government?” When you feel the storms of doubt and fear brewing, remember what He has already told you-“It is I-Do not be afraid!”
**In counseling, one of the best ways to answer a question is with another question. This technique requires the person to think about a way to answer the question himself. It creates a step towards an inward self-reflection. Ultimately, people know what they should do, and although some questions have obvious answers, the struggle is more with NOT wanting to hear the answer because the answer requires a change in thinking and/or actions.
Jesus used this technique throughout His ministry. Whether conversing with His disciples, religious leaders, or to the public who came to Him, He often responded to their questions with His own question. Thus, I believe God is leading me in this direction to recreate Christ-A-Tarian’s posts with a question that is answered with another question. May this new look for my blog be a blessing to all who read it.
Suggested Song: Waymaker
Over the summer, I jumped on the Mandalorian’s show craze. I am a Star Wars’ fan anyways so, watching baby Yoda’s (Grogu) adorableness was definitely entertaining. Although his cuteness was undeniable, my favorite character was Kuiil. He had a signature line: “I have spoken” which reminded me of something my mom used to say when I was growing-up, “Because I said so”.
Being raised by a pre-Baby Boomer, I was taught with many of her generational parenting ideologies. In her day, kids were seen and not heard; spankings followed most misbehaviors; kids ate whatever food was put in front of them; there was no such thing as an allowance, and reason given for these rules: “Because I said so”!
Since I am a Gen X, I modified those rules just a bit. First, my kids were seen and heard - as long as they remained respectful and did not interrupt adults speaking (unless they were on fire 😊). Second, I did spank my kids’ bottoms occasionally for complete disobedience. Overall, I choose the disciplinary concept of “punishment had to fit the crime”. For example, if they mistreated a toy, the toy was given away to someone who would appreciate it. Next, I did not make my kids eat everything on their plate; but I did not allow fussiness or wastefulness either. Specifically, they could not have any seconds until they finished firsts. Since I was a tad smarter than they were, I gave them a small portion of what I knew they loved -including chocolate pudding-(yes, I served pudding during dinner-it has milk in it 😉). They would immediately gobble-up the pudding and ask for more. In my most loving voice, “Yes, you may have more as soon as you finish your chicken, beans, and rice. We do not waste God’s food, so, no seconds until you finish your firsts.” Almost, always, they would quickly eat the rest on their plates and get their seconds of pudding. This created a diverse palate while eliminating the power struggle that is often seen when kids decide they do not want to eat something. Finally, I stayed true to the allowance rule of my mother’s era because I always found it counterproductive to give an allowance for something that should be done anyways. No one gave me money for doing dishes or laundry, and I was not going to give it to them. Now, I have heard the argument, that it teaches them how to manage money. Teaching them to manage their money came from birthday $, Christmas $, and eventually the money from working jobs.
Now, that I listed some of my parenting rules, I usually did give my sons reasons for them. It was important to show them cause and effect with the Biblical, “reap what we sow” truth (Galatians 6:7). However, I have to admit there were times when I gave the reason, “Because I said so!” Just like Kuiil, there were times when enough was said, and the matter had to be dropped. Even the Mandalorian’s Creed, “This is the way” on the show was enough of an explanation, and sometimes this is the way parenting should be.
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.
“Hark! The herald angels sing, glory to the newborn king”. I know, these are lyrics to a Christmas song - do not worry, I have not lost my mind (yet -😊). I am well aware that we are about to crossover into springtime. Plus, this is not an old holiday post from my blog that I pulled from my computer files because I am running out of topics either (thankfully, the Holy Spirit keeps my fingers tapping on this keyboard with His ideas). This is a post about words. I love words; especially words that have powerful meanings. For example, in the lyrics above, I am sure you know “Hark” means: to listen/to pay close attention; however, there is another word that has a similar meaning and even sounds close to it, but its meaning entails so much more: it is Hearken.
To clarify, recently, while reading Isaiah, I came across this word in both Chapter 48:18 and Chapter 51:1.
“Oh, that you had hearkened to My commandments! Then your peace and prosperity would have been like a flowing river, and your righteousness [the holiness and purity of the nation] like the [abundant] waves of the sea”. (Amplified Bible Classic Edition).
“Hearken to Me, you who follow after rightness and justice, you who seek and inquire of [and require] the Lord [claiming Him by necessity and by right]: look to the rock from which you were hewn and to the hole in the quarry from which you were dug”.
When I first read this word, I wondered why it did not say, “Hark, listen, or pay attention”. Why did this version choose the word Hearken? Well, I think the answer is found in its 3 meanings.
2. To give respectful attention
3. To bring to mind something in the past.
God is the Creator of words and the Creator of the Bible. However, sometimes translations are lost when certain Biblical versions insert/replace words for a better understanding. Reread the scripture verses above and imagine God’s powerful plea:
1. Listen, give respect attention, and recall from the past My commandments.
2. Listen, give attention, and recall to Me, you who follow after rightness and justice.
All three meanings added to these verses bring them alive, and you feel them reach down into your heart. It creates a heart-to-heart connection with God.
Moreover, when I look at the word Hearken, I see the word, “heart”. God’s heart has such a deep love for us that it is so much more than we can even fathom. It is an Agape love: a sacrificial love that binds (another word lost in translation-which you may see in a future post 😊). It was Christ’s Agape (love) for humankind that brought Him to the cross. Therefore, when we listen to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, give respectful attention to God’s Holy Bible, and bring to mind Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection, we can be confident in knowing that our eternal future is guarenteed.
Now that is worth singing: “Heark, the hopeful people sing-glory to the eternal king!”
(Heark is spelled incorrectly for effect!)
* Hearken | Definition of Hearken by Merriam-Webster (merriam-webster.com)
Years ago, I read The Four Seasons of Marriage by Gary Chapman. In the book, Chapman explains how couples experience emotional seasons similar to the weather. To illustrate, the synopsis of the book describes these marital seasons as: “winter--discouraged, detached, and dissatisfied; other times, [couples] experience springtime--with its openness, hope, and anticipation. [Next, they] bask in the warmth of summer--comfortable, relaxed, enjoying life. And then comes fall--[full] of uncertainty, negligence, and apprehension” (1). Being married for almost 30 years (This May 2021, I will celebrate 30 years with Paul, my storm-chasing partner😊) I can definitely say this book is not just a theory, it is a reality. Couples will go through these climate phases; yet, when they weather the “storms of life” and stay committed, they will emerge stronger and experience a deeper more fulfilling love.
Even though Chapman’s book was geared towards marital relations, it occurred to me that this concept can apply to other areas of our lives too. In general, a person can go through similar seasons at work, church, or even with family and friends. For example, when a person is first hired, the excitement of the new job is springtime while the day-to-day work-related stresses will seem like the dead of winter and generate employee dissatisfaction. Furthermore, one’s connection to his/her church can create a summertime forecast of calm, stability, warmth, and acceptance, and then, unexpected congregational issues can shift to more of a fall forecast that is full of dropped leaves stained with doubt and concern.
Next month, in March, will mark a full year of Covid-19 adjustments. Even though the calendar’s seasons have rotated from winter, spring, summer, fall, and now back to winter, the emotional climate of Covid for many has stalled somewhere in between fall and winter. Fear and uncertainty are wrapped around the number of cases while lockdowns, 6 feet of separation, and masks leave our spirits detached, discouraged, and isolated. When will it be springtime? When will it be summer? Answer:
Springtime is remembering our hope is in Him.
“We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” 1 Thessalonians 1:3.
Summertime is focusing on Him instead of our circumstances.
“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit” Romans 8:5.
Regardless of when or if “normal” pre-Covid life returns, as a believer, you can be confident that there is a Reason for this Season. God always has an eternal purpose; thus, every day is springtime and summer when we choose to feel the warmth of the Son as we seek His face in prayer. Plus, our joy is found in knowing He is always in control of ALL our circumstances-including Covid-19.
1. The Four Seasons of Marriage - Which Season of Mar | Cokesbury by Gary Chapman